Updated: May 23
On Tuesday May 16th, youth filled the Oakland City Hall chambers with messages for #NoCoalInOakland! Students and adult supporters from all across Oakland brought their voices, their demands, and their commitments to hold Oakland City Council accountable to their communities. Here are some of their testimonies:
Chris, District 5, Oakland HS: "We matter. Youth matter. Our voices matter. And we won't stop until we know that coal won't be here in Oakland. And so that we all know that Oakland can be a safe and clean environment to call home."
Sophia, District 5, Envision Academy: "By keeping coal out of Oakland, you will be protecting youth and future generations alike."
Magdalena, District 6, Skyline HS: "It is painful that we have to tell you about this time and time again. Why would we even consider for a second putting coal through Oakland? Oakland is a beautiful, resilient place, and we deserve happiness and justice."
Lenica, District 5, Urban Promise Academy: "Coal is a dirty and dangerous fossil fuel that contributes to air pollution and climate change. The toxic dust particles from released during transportation and handling can harm the health of residents who live nearby the port."
Tanaya, District 2, MetWest: "I remember being in 6th grade and we were fighting the same fight & now I'm graduating high school and we're still trying to get coal out of Oakland... If this is passed and allowed, do you really want to protect our community?"
Sam, District 5, Fremont HS: "There have been many studies that show coal is a dying industry and we shouldn't be vested to them because in the long run, it is going to affect the city's budget negatively while destroying the city."
Aniya, District 5: "I'm a junior in high school in my last semester. When I should be preparing for my finals next week, I'm here advocating against coal being imported into my home. There should be zero storage, handling, or transportation of coal into Oakland. Importing coal isn't protecting our communities. It's an intentional poisoning of low-income Black & Brown communities. It's a continuation of frontline communities being treated as if we are disposable. WE ARE NOT DISPOSABLE. Our health depends on decisions that you make."
Gracie, District 1: "Having coal produced, stored, and handled here will be another burden for my community. The argument for coal is the economic prospect it provides. But what is the opportunity cost of more disenfranchised people falling sick to PM2.5 levels and coal dust. How will future generations react when they hear that the city council members here chose coal over them? Our wellness is valuable. And the time to end environmental racism is now."
Sanaiya & Serenity, District 5, United For Success Academy: "Oakland deserves a better life and better health. We deserve people to fight for us." "My twin brother has asthma and had been to the hospital 8 times because of it. We shouldn't die; we should live."
Kameron, District 2, Oakland Military Institute: "The arrival of coal into Oakland will be detrimental to our environment. Many of us have family who struggle with respiratory issued. The arrival of coal will only make their diseases worse."
Kiana, District 6, Skyline HS: "City Council in the past has stood firmly against the import of coal in Oakland. This [terminal] will affect Oakland residents who already experience environmental racism. I'm asking all City Council members to stand with ALL of Oakland."
Ra'Mauri, District 3, Skyline HS: "I want to talk about the safety of West Oakland residents & why there would even be a need to move coal in Oakland. In my entire life, we've never seen 1 practical use of coal. We have electric water heaters. Our trains no longer run on coal. I see no practical reason to put the lives of West Oakland residents at risk to move an unreliable resource through our town. I see no reason to put people with respiratory issues with asthma, the lives of elderly people and of young newborns and infants at risk."
De'Arieus, District 5: "I have one question for you all. Do you remember when the sky was orange? Forest fires have had us in a state of panic for years. And now we're shipping coal? The transportation emissions of which can further pollute our city, a city in which the people in poverty have been mistreated for generations. It's time we acknowledged those people and treated them with decency and respect."
Zara, District 2, Skyline HS: "I along with 10 other governing board members represent over 35,000 students in our district. In 2016, you stood with us, you stood strong against Phil Tagami & Donald Trump. You agreed: No Storage, No Handling, No Transport, No Loopholes. You fought this fight with us. And here we are in 2023, fighting this fight again. It's been quite a year. Our community has suffered violence, climate catastrophe, flooding, drought, heat. We need protection. Just like 2016, do not repeal this ban. Keep coal out of Oakland."
Julian, District 5: "We shouldn't be having toxic chemicals released all the time. We have told many people this many many times. It shouldn't be something that is questioned. This is extremely harmful, especially frontline communities."
Awa, District 3, American Indian College Prep Charter School: "City Council should advocate for strict + enforceable rules to keep coal out of Oakland - No loopholes allowed. These developers don't care about keeping our communities safe and healthy but our city council should. I hear people say that youth are supposed to inherit the world, but the only thing we are inheriting are the consequences of coal and fossil fuels. I'm here today to fight for the right of youth - all those who have come before me and those who will come after me."
Greg, District 5, YVA supporter & internship coordinator with OUSD: "I've set up thousands of internships for youth in Oakland. What I see is that the barrier for preparing youth for jobs are not primarily the absence of jobs but often the absence of hope. We don't need to be creating jobs that destroy the planet and that further toxify the city. What we need to be doing to creating job that give young people hope for their future."
Carolyn, District 5: "I was here in 2015. At that time, when I first learned about the plans to potentially ship coal into Oakland, I felt hopeless, I felt despair. I knew there were so many issues that the young people we work with were struggling with and facing every day. And to learn about climate chaos, melting, pollution, environmental racism continuing - it was overwhelming. Since that time, this whole organization started as Youth Vs Coal and grew into Youth Vs Apocalypse. So many young people have figured out how to access power and to fight for their lives, justice, and what they need. I implore you to do what is in your heart to do, which is to say No to Coal. But I also feel a lot more confident because I know there is a youth movement that will hold us all accountable to do what we need to do."